We’ve all heard of “Random Acts of Kindness.” I think it was Oprah who made this a feel-good buzz-word back in the 90s and, really, who can argue with kindness? And, maybe you’ve seen the inspirational movie from 2000, Pay It Forward, which brought to popular culture the 1951 idea by Robert A. Heinlein that a favor should be paid forward, not back. But, let’s face it, life is full of honking horns, exasperated sighs and rolling eyes. People are impatient, life is busy and it seems like we have so many responsibilities to take care of. It’s not always easy to be kind.
But kindness need not be as large and utopian as what is depicted in the Kevin Spacey film, nor as spiritual or new-agey as some of the things associated with Oprah. Sometimes it’s just a small, little, ordinary thing.
I spent this past weekend with three good friends out in Montauk. We were celebrating a 50th Birthday (not mine, yet!) with a “girls only” weekend. I am not a Hamptons Lady so just about any amount of pampering will do me just fine, thank you very much! I had a couple of spa treatments, ate some delicious food, swam in a beautiful salt-water pool and gazed at the ocean with the same wonder I do every time I see it. This Missouri girl still can’t believe the magic and mystery of living at the “edge of the world,” in a coastal state.
But on Saturday, we ate at a restaurant with a very crabby waitress. It was the only place open during the off-season so we had no choice. I guess when you see a sign like this, you know you might be in for something less than warm and fuzzy:
It’s easy to find the humor in this, but I will assure you, they are not exactly joking. My friend was promptly reprimanded by the waitress for taking a mobile call from her family at the table and my other friend was told she was not being acknowledged (seriously, she said, “I’m not acknowledging you”) when she asked a second question about the soup of the day. Good thing the food and drinks were both awesome.
Afterwards, we went to a local, tourist’s t-shirt shop where the owner was clearly in a snit over something and was relating whatever it was to a young sales girl behind the counter. After wandering around the shop, we had some stuff to purchase but the sales girl stopped to tell us that the t-shirts that two of us had picked out were so prone to shrinking that they would probably not fit after a wash, even in the XL, and that another one of us had a tie-dyed shirt that bled blue ink so badly that you could only ever wash it with blue clothing, forever and ever. The owner heard her tell us…and agreed! Then the sales girl ran all around finding sizes of other things for us until we were all set.
When’s the last time you had a sales person or a store owner caution you on any kind of purchase?
At the checkout, I told the owner what a kind, helpful sales girl she had and she looked at me with a surprised expression and said, “you know, that is the nicest thing anyone has said to me all day.” We had a conversation about mean people, rude people and cranky people, in general, concluding that, like the bumper sticker says, mean people suck. On our way out, she said, “wait, what are you guys doing tonight?” We told her we were going to get some dinner but not sure what else. She handed us two free decks of playing cards and said maybe we’d like to play some card games or something, if we had time on our hands.
Now, maybe two packs of free playing cards was no big “deal.” I’m sure they didn’t cost much anyways. But the fact is that we had two hours to kill before our dinner reservations and, instead of watching TV (unfortunately, it was too cold and too windy for a comfortable walk on the beach), we had the most fun you can imagine playing cards. Lots of conversation and laughs, lots of good natured sportsmanship, and three of us learned a new card game–it was “Hearts” that we played, by the way.
Life will always be full of honking horns, exasperated sighs and rolling eyes… but, sometimes, you can hold a handful of hearts and win the game.
TRY THIS WEEK: Resist the urge to honk your proverbial horn.